Years ago, when the first three rounds of the NFL draft were held on a Saturday, it was an all-day food fest for me. I would awaken early, go to the gym, shower up, and buy a dozen donuts. Throughout the first round, I would eat about three donuts per hour, consuming the entire dozen by the end of the first round. Starting in round two, I would switch to eating pizza; again, my pace was about three slices per hour, finishing off the entire pizza by the end of round three.
Simply, it was a gluttonous nirvana.
Then, Roger Goodell went and messed everything up by switching the draft to Thursday night. No more donuts. No more sitting on my couch for eight straight hours. No more breakfast nor lunch. My day-long smorgasbord was condensed into one meal: dinner.
Wait a second… dinner. As I just wrote that word (dinner), I had an epiphany. I am being completely transparent, when I say that this article was going to go an entirely different direction… until I wrote the word dinner. Once I typed those six seemingly meaningless letters, I had a moment of clarity: the entire Steelers draft will hinge upon dinner.
Allow me to explain further. In the past few years, the Steelers have drafted several players with whom they have had private workouts and/or meetings. More importantly, Mike Tomlin has taken a few of the prospects out for dinner… most notably Le’Veon Bell. So, this got me thinking. With all of the potential draft picks that the Steelers could possibly select, and the multitude of scenarios for an entire seven rounds, there is simply no real way for anyone to accurately predict who the Steelers might actual draft in each and every round… until now.
The key is: dinner.
In other words, I have narrowed down who the Steelers will pick in each round, based heavily on whether or not Tomlin took them to dinner. Because, metaphorically speaking, it appears as though the quickest way to Tomlin’s heart is through his stomach.
ROUND 1: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
Tomlin ate dinner with five players with first round grades. DaVante Parker (WR, Louisville) will absolutely not be there at twenty-two, so we can scratch him off of the list. Shane Ray (OLB, Missouri) should be there, but with a toe injury and a very recent marijuana possession, he is now off of the first round list. Bud Dupree (Kentucky) is an interesting name, because some have him as “top ten” pick, while others have him as a late first-round pick. Since a cornerback seems to be the consensus pick, most people have mocked Jalen Collins (LSU) or Kevin Johnson (Wake Forest) to the Steelers… but I went with a different cornerback: Marcus Peters (Washington).
I know, I know: Peters never ate dinner with Tomlin. The two of them merely visited. But Tomlin met with him on three separate occasions, which shows that he has an equal amount of interest in Peters (as he does the five aforementioned players). Tomlin interviewed Peters at the combine. Then they talked again at Washington’s pro day (where Carnell Lake also met with Peters). And lastly, Peters flew into Pittsburgh to meet with the entire Steelers’ staff. To make a long story short, using my “draft pick prediction” algorithm, three separate meetings with a player is equivalent to one dinner; hence, I think that Marcus Peters is the pick. Oh… and for those still not convinced, I heard that during Peters’ third visit, Tomlin and he shared a plate of nachos.
Tomlin must have racked up some serious bonus points on his credit card, because he ate dinner with three more prospects, all of whom are outside linebackers with mid-round grades: Lorenzo Mauldin (Louisville), Markus Golden (Missouri) and Danielle Hunter (LSU). Cutting to the chase, all three are high-motor type of players. The difference is that Mauldin and Golden appear to be closer to their full potential, and thus, they will not be drafted until the third or fourth round. Conversely, Hunter has a higher ceiling, and in turn, he will be drafted much sooner. To clarify, I am not one for drafting guys based on potential (versus production), but all three of these linebackers had similar production. The reason that I would take Hunter a round earlier is because he does indeed have more potential. Plus, Hunter ordered the tiramisu… which launches him far, far ahead of the other two.
ROUND 3: Clive Walford, TE, Miami
Walford was once an early second-round pick… and then he started conducting interviews. His smug response to some questions left such a distaste in some coaches’ mouths, that they have dropped him down to a fourth-round pick. That said, Tomlin met with Walford at the combine and, apparently, Tomlin’s reaction was not the same as some other coaches, because during Miami’s pro day, Tomlin and Walford had a second (private) meeting. I am not certain what was discussed, but I have heard rumors that olive oil (or, was it olive branches?) was on the menu.
ROUND 4: Charles Gaines, CB, Louisville
ROUND 5: Gerod Holliman, FS, Louisville
Sometimes, the best secondaries come from having synergy, and Louisville had a dynamic duo with Charles Gaines and Gerod Holliman. Gaines would harass receivers, causing quarterbacks to shy away from his side of the field and instead attempt throws over the middle… where Holliman would collect a 2014 NCAA-leading (and record-tying) fourteen interceptions. The only drawback with the two of these players is that they are not real physical; they shy away from tackling. If this were 2001, I would take them off of my draft board (for being unwilling tacklers), but in today’s pass-interference-happy NFL, these two fit in nicely with the new rules. Plus, Tomlin was able to use his “third person eats free” coupon, when the three of them ate at a local Mexican restaurant.
If the 2014 season taught us anything, it was that the Steelers need a good back-up for Le’Veon Bell. Despite signing DeAngelo Williams, I foresee a draft pick being used on a big, pass-catching running back. Buck Allen (USC) and Matt Jones (Florida) immediately come to mind… but only Jones broke bread with Tomlin; hence, he is the selection.
The Steelers like their linemen to be versatile, and Garcia is the epitome of that. He is a center, who has played some games at tackle, and spent an entire season playing guard… wherein, he fared well against Danny Shelton (Washington) and Carl Davis (Iowa). Furthermore, Garcia is a team captain, and a very well-liked team leader. Lastly, not only did Tomlin take him to dinner, Mike Munchak was at Garcia’s pro day… which might even be more significant than the dinner. Speaking of Munchak…
ROUND 7: Quinton Spain, OG, West Virginia
Tomlin did not have dinner with Spain, but Munchak drove south to West Virginia’s pro day, in order to watch all of the Mountaineers’ offensive lineman. Spain must have shown well, because the Steelers invited him up for a visit. I am assuming that a snack mix of some sort was involved during this meeting. While munchies may not be considered a “dinner”, this is round seven: you get what you get.
In closing, here is the truncated version of my Steelers mock draft:
R1: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
R2: Danielle Hunter, OLB, LSU
R3: Clive Walford, TE, Miami
R4: Charles Gaines, CB, Louisville
R5: Gerod Holliman, FS, Louisville
R6: Matt Jones, RB, Florida
R6: Max Garcia, OL, Florida
R7: Quinton Spain, OG, West Virginia